In a shockingly challenging year, Honda, historically known for automotive quality and their production line expertise, issued five recalls of the Japanese version of the Fit vehicle. It was 2014, and the Fit was already an established brand within the Honda family, making the recalls especially painful. In response to these challenges, Honda executives owned deselection: they announced that they would be streamlining the number of model variations to limit production and assembly complexity, took a pay cut and appointed a quality czar to help solve the issues around the supply and distribution models that were partly responsible for the problems with the Fit.

When deselection is owned by the top through clear and specific actions, it sets the tone for the whole organization about what is most important. Honda executives took deselection a step further and stopped providing annual sales forecasts to refocus on long-term success rather than short-term results. By eliminating forecasting, they created the capacity needed to focus on how to address the critical quality issues that had come up in the past year.

Although Honda executives took the initiative in this case, ownership of deselection needs to come from both the top and the bottom of the organization. From a bottom-up perspective, your employees may see deselection as something done at the executive level where they make the “tough decisions”, however deselection happens organically when people at all levels feel empowered to say “no” and own how they allocate their time and energy. Your employees should be asking themselves whether the tasks they are performing are in service of the long-term strategic goals of the organization and not just doing them solely because you have always done things that way, because there are personal incentives to not deselecting or for any other misaligned reason.

Deselection does not have to be big. For your employees, it could be evaluating whether a single product offering is truly aligned with the company strategy, removing redundancies from an internal process or reexamining who your current customers are and whether they match your target market.

Deselection is painful and will require making tough decisions that will not satisfy all of your customers or employees. At Honda, deselection was challenging because it meant some plants had to retool, and some regions didn’t get the model options they wanted, however it was far less painful than having to issue multiple recalls in a year for a company whose identity was centered around quality.

Already, Honda is experiencing success due to deselection. In 2016, Honda gained market share in the US market, not because of new vehicle offerings, historically how automakers gain market share, but because of higher-quality, streamlined models of their flagship vehicles. If Honda executives gave lip service to problems of quality and misalignment surrounding the Fit but did not take ownership of making the difficult decisions to deselect, they would likely not have experienced this success.

This is the second post in a five-part blog series that examines the cultural barriers to deselection. They include the impacts of ownership, identity, emotion, habit and collaboration on the ability of an organization to deselect, align and increase capacity. The previous post provides an overview of deselection and why the cultural aspects of it are important. It can be accessed here.

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